A judge ruled on procedural grounds that le Fey could not receive a restraining order against her former bandmate/ex-boyfriend.
Foxygen singer Sam France has won a fresh victory in a turbulent six-year courtroom battle with his ex-girlfriend Elizabeth le Fey, a former touring member of the band who also makes music under the name Globelamp. On June 6, a judge dismissed a request by le Fey (whose real name is Elizabeth Gomez) for a five-year restraining order against France, court records show. The request was dismissed on procedural grounds, due to le Fey’s months-long inability to serve France with the required paperwork.
The two musicians have long accused each other of physical violence, threats, and harassment. France was granted a five-year domestic violence prevention restraining order against le Fey in 2014; it was renewed in March 2019.
In an emailed statement to Pitchfork, le Fey, who represented herself at the hearing, said: “I have still never been able to tell my story in front of a judge. Instead of having a court rule on my restraining order against Sam France based on the merits of the case, Sam France avoided being served and got an attorney to appear for him. Then his attorney convinced the judge to dismiss the case without hearing any facts of the case.”
A lawyer who represented France in the case, Jacob Glucksman, wrote to Pitchfork in an email, “I hope that Ms. Gomez finally gets the message to leave Mr. France and his endeavors alone once and for all.”
France and le Fey began a relationship in 2012 after le Fey appeared in the video for “San Francisco,” a song from Foxygen’s 2013 breakout album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. She joined the band’s touring lineup as a backup singer and multi-instrumentalist, traveling with them in 2012 and early 2013. France and le Fey lived together for a time in Olympia, Washington.
According to a court transcript obtained by Pitchfork, back in 2014, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Convey said he would grant France’s five-year restraining order against le Fey “by the slimmest of margin.”
Five years later, at a hearing on March 19, 2019, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Amerian granted France’s request for another five years, finding that France still had a “reasonable apprehension” of abuse.
Eight days later, on March 28, le Fey filed for her own domestic violence prevention restraining order against France.
The court granted le Fey a temporary restraining order against France until after a hearing, set for April 18.
But le Fey was “unable to properly serve” France with copies of the notice of the hearing and the temporary restraining order, according to court documents, and the hearing was rescheduled. When le Fey had still failed to serve France by the next court date, the hearing was rescheduled again. Neither France nor his representatives appeared in court on either date.
By the time of the third scheduled court date, on June 6, le Fey had still been unable to serve France as required. So the judge threw out the case. “I don’t have proof of service on file in this case and this matter has already been continued twice before,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Holly Thomas said at the hearing, according to a transcript obtained by Pitchfork.
“So at this time, I’m going to dismiss the case without prejudice to future refiling.” (Dismissal “without prejudice” means the person filing a claim can refile the same claim in the future.)
Glucksman, the lawyer representing France, was in attendance at the June 6 hearing.
The transcript shows that after Thomas announced her decision, Glucksman asked for dismissal with prejudice.
(Dismissal “with prejudice” means the person filing a claim cannot refile the same claim.) Glucksman argued that le Fey was not forthcoming with the court regarding the existing restraining order against her.
(In le Fey’s restraining order application, viewed by Pitchfork, the question about other restraining orders is left blank, although elsewhere in the application she wrote that “he has a RO on me.”) Judge Thomas then dismissed the case with prejudice. According to the transcript, Thomas’ reasoning for the change was because “judge [Amerian] already heard from both of you in March,” during France’s restraining order hearing against le Fey.
The distinction between “with prejudice” and “without prejudice” is important, because it means that le Fey cannot refile for another restraining order without new allegations. Legal experts reached by Pitchfork questioned whether dismissal with prejudice made sense in this case.
Peter M. Walzer, family law expert and a past chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Family Law practice, said that le Fey might theoretically have grounds for an appeal. “It sounds like the judge could have made an error, technically, because it wasn’t really adjudicated in that [March] hearing,” he said. “But at that level the law gets very complex and nuanced. We just don’t know.”
Steve Mindel, another Los Angeles County family lawyer, said the decision to dismiss with prejudice seemed unusual. “It doesn’t fit what happens in a restraining order hearing,” he said. “You’re always able to comment on prior conduct in pursuing a restraining order even if the restraining order was denied.”
Scott Weston, a Los Angeles County family lawyer who represented Gwen Stefani in her divorce from Gavin Rossdale, said that restraining order proceedings are extremely complicated and le Fey should have had a lawyer at the hearing.
Weston also said that le Fey made big mistakes by failing to check the box on her restraining order application about France’s restraining order against her, by not filing for a restraining order against France five years ago, and by continuing to mention France on social media. “The court would start out suspicious anyway,” he said.
But Weston also reiterated that the March hearing should not have been a reason to dismiss le Fey’s case with prejudice in June, noting that by law, judges are supposed to treat each party’s claims independently. “Do I think the court should have dismissed it with prejudice? No,” he said. “You still have to give the person their day in court to try to prove their claims.”
By Marc Hogan
July 3, 2019